My interest in music started early. I wasn’t offered piano lessons or encouraged to learn to play an instrument by my parents or through programs at school. But I did spend hours sitting in front of my father’s monophonic HiFi system and can distinctly remember wanting to participate in music making in some fashion. The ultimate trigger for me — and I suspect many other young men — was seeing The Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 60s. What could possibly be better than rockin’ out with several of your friends in front of a crowd of screaming girls? I also saw fellow classmates perform on electric guitars in the annual talent show and I was hooked. I begged my folks for the chance to learn to play the guitar.
My interest in electronics and music resulted in the purchase of a Heathkit solid body electric guitar — it was a gorgeous bright red — and an amplifier with 70 watts and two Jensen 12-inch speakers. I loved every aspect of building both the guitar and amplifier AND struggling to learn a few basic chords to play. Pretty soon I was jamming with Steve Fischer and Harry Manvel in the basement and planning for a life of fame and fortune as a professional musician. I even abandoned my architecture studies at the University of Michigan after two years and headed west to California to launch my new life. I was serious about being a musician, had a strong desire, but didn’t yet understand that it takes a more than practicing 10,000 hours to succeed as a professional musician.
It wasn’t until I spent an afternoon with Larry Carlton — a VERY talented studio guitarist — in a recording studio that I began to realize that sheer motivation wasn’t going to be enough. There was this thing called talent that perhaps I was lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty good guitar player and I even managed to get through music school with piano as my performing instrument, but I had the sense to recognize that others had something the I lacked. And it turned out to be a really good thing. My talents exist in different disciplines. I’m really good at bridging the technical/creative aspects of music making and engineering. The left and right halves of my brain communicate quite well. I’m very comfortable with the engineering AND music production.
I found satisfaction in composing, writing, arranging, and producing music. My academic training took me through music theory, counterpoint, composition, orchestration, form and analysis, and ultimately to electronic music — the use of synthesizers and computers in music making. My place in the world of music was on the other side of the glass. While I loved playing, engineering and producing music performed by those with much more talent than I was the basis of my career. And it provided both an opportunity to contribute to the art of music recording and reproduction AND a comfortable lifestyle. I have no complaints about the path of my career.
But I have many talented musician friends and have worked with dozens of others that haven’t been so fortunate. Making a living in music is extremely difficult. The few at the top can make millions but the average working musician is challenged to maintain a middle class living. I know many contemporaries that are still doing $100 gigs with no bank accounts. They don’t own a house and most augment their income driving for UBER or Lyft. A career in music can be artistically satisfying but end up very hard in one’s later years. A long resumé of playing with luminaries and having first rate gigs doesn’t guarantee financial longevity.
Helping John Lee Sanders
I write this because a very talented musician I worked with on the Paul Williams “Going Back There Someday” album with Willie Nelson, Melissa Manchester, and Gonzo the Muppet is running a GoFundMe campaign. John Lee Sanders is a musician’s musician. He plays piano and tenor saxophone — and he was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2011. The treatment was successful but caused his teeth to fail. He needs dental work in a big way to get back to playing. He deserves support and I was glad to contribute to his campaign AND I’m happy to help spread the word among my readers. If you watch the video below, you’ll see a segment from the Paul Williams Collector’s Edition DVD with John playing a beautiful sax solo at 3:39. He also played Hammond B3 organ and sang background harmonies on the project.
You can check out his campaign at John Lee Sanders’ GoFundMe page. This is man who dedicated himself to his music and now finds it necessary to ask for a little help. I noticed that both Paul Williams and Dave Goelz (aka Gonzo the Muppet) made substantial contributions to his campaign — I hope you can to.
100% of Proceeds From Paul Williams DVD
And as an incentive, I’ll donate 100% percent of the proceeds from purchases of the Paul Williams Collectors Edition DVD to John’s campaign until the end of August. Simply go to the album page on AIX Records (click here) and purchase the album. I’ll ship it to you for free (domestic orders only) and give the funds to John. Thanks.
Please note that I will traveling for the next 10 days and the shipment of the disc — or any AIX Records order — will happen at the very end of July. I appreciate your patience.
AIX Records Site is Progessing
Work continues on the new AIX Records website. I’ve added videos and audio samples to about half of the albums so far. It’s a slow and tedious process, but work the effort. Please stop by and check out the new design.